Research and Assessment coordinates student academic assessment and evaluation efforts in the district. We support the administration of district and state assessments and assist in the use of this data in the educational decision-making process.

Special Note for 2020-21: This fall we delayed our formal academic assessments to prioritize the necessary time for teachers to connect with students and families, build relationships and establish routines within the remote learning environment. In November, we were able to provide a remote administration of our district online assessments for reading and math in grades 3-8 and high school algebra. This spring, we will be able to provide classroom and district-wide academic assessment for students, with most able to participate with in-person administrations.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) informed schools in April that most of the spring state tests will not be given until fall of next school year.

  • The English language proficiency assessment (ELPA21) for students receiving English language development services will continue this spring.
  • The Washington Access to Instruction & Measurement (WA-AIM), an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards for students with significant cognitive disabilities, began in December and will be completed this spring.
  • The Smarter Balanced assessments (SBA) and the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) have been postponed. All students who were expected to take these state tests this spring will be given them in fall of 2021. For example, students in grade 3 this spring will take the Grade 3 ELA and math SBA test in fall of their 4th grade year.
  • On grade level state tests for school year 2021-22 will continue in the spring of 2022 as planned.

All state assessments require an in-person administration. For families with students who have not returned for in-person instruction but are expected to participate in the state ELPA21 or WA-AIM assessments, school staff will contact families to share options about how to safely participate in the assessments.

State Assessments

Bellingham Public Schools gives annual state assessments to students in grades 3 – 8 and high school. English language arts (ELA) and math are measured with Smarter Balanced tests. Science is measured with the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) in grades 5, 8 and 11.

The Bellingham Promise, the district’s strategic plan, guides everything we do for our students, families, community and staff. One of our core beliefs is to focus on the whole child. State tests are only one benchmark; other measures and evidence are just as important in assessing the development of our kids. We encourage you to keep these tests in perspective of our overall goals.

These state tests assess our learning standards in English language arts, mathematics, and science, which strive for college and career readiness by high school graduation. Please keep in mind that your child’s teachers are the best resource for a complete picture of your child’s academic proficiency.

Preliminary results from the Smarter Balanced English language arts and mathematics tests are available to schools electronically within three to four weeks after a student completes testing. Results from the science test are available in the fall. Score reports for families are loaded into Skyward Family Access and paper copies are available in the fall.

Don’t forget a good night’s sleep and healthy breakfast are an essential part of every school day. Your child(ren)’s school(s) send information about testing dates.

Why are we taking a state test?

Classrooms and learner expectations can be different across the hall, the school, the district and the state. Twenty-five years ago, Washington state decided that families have the right to know how students are progressing toward a common set of learning standards that help fulfill the basic rights of every student. So common assessments – our state tests – were written for teachers to use once a year, in addition to the various assessments and strategies that teachers use throughout the year in their classrooms.

Different kinds of assessments are used to tell us what to teach tomorrow, what progress students are making this month, when they have mastered key concepts, or when they’re ready for new information and thinking. The state tests tell us about progress from one year to the next in English language arts and in math. We also have state science tests that we use in fifth, eighth and eleventh grades. Over time, these will help fill in the picture about a student’s readiness for what comes after high school, which we call college and career readiness. A lot goes into preparing for adult life, and these academic measures are just one part of that preparation.

The state tests are not used to fill out report cards. And students do not need to pass the tests to move on to the next grade level. The state tests do, however, give teachers extra information about academic progress to help assure students are on the path to success. The state tests also help teachers, schools and districts know if our programs are effective or if changes are needed. When we all agree that one of our assessments each year is a common state test, it’s easier for us to measure student growth and ensure that our school programs are working well.

Testing schedule for grades 3 to 12